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Newcastle on the NSW North Coast has become the new capital of cool. Once a working-class, no-nonsense destination, it’s now a culinary and artistic hot-spot that’s also home to some of the best beaches in the whole country. There’s plenty to do here, for both indoor and outdoor types
Eat and drink
Food and drink lovers are in for a treat. There’s a delicious range of waterside bars, cafes and restaurants on the harbour foreshore promenade. Have lunch by the ocean at the chic Merewether Surfhouse. You’ll find restaurants all over the city, with one street alone (Darby Street) home to over 25 cafes and restaurants. Or pick up fresh local produce at the weekly Newcastle City Farmers Market on Sundays.
Things to do
The best way to explore the stunning Newcastle coastline is to take the Bathers Way, a scenic walk from historic Nobbys Head Lighthouse to Glenrock State Conservation Area. Stop for a swim at the art deco Newcastle Ocean Baths and the Bogey Hole, a rock pool built by convicts in 1819.
For more outdoor adventure, soar on zip-lines at the TreeTop Adventure Park or learn to surf at the Surfest Surf School. Wildlife experiences include meeting koalas at Blackbutt Reserve, or whale watching with CoastXP and Nova Cruises during the migration season from May to November.
Newcastle is a city of fabulous events too. The sporting calendar is jam-packed, from the biggest surfing festival in Australia, Surfest, in February to the Newcastle 500 supercars in November. Music lovers also have regular concerts and the Newcastle Jazz Festival in August.
History and heritage
Start with a visit to the excellent Newcastle Museum and the Newcastle Art Gallery. Find out more about the city’s history and heritage on guided tours, including Aboriginal-led tours, walking tours and harbour cruises. There are regular tours of the Fort Scratchley Historic Site, Australia’s only coastal fortification to fire upon a World War II Japanese submarine.
Two convenient ways to travel between the historical attractions and the gorgeous beaches are the Newcastle Coastal Explorer and Newcastle’s Famous Tram, a replica 1932 tram. Alternatively, bring your bicycle or hire one and pedal from the heart of the city to the beaches and along the coast.
Getting there and where to stay
Newcastle is a two-hour drive north of Sydney along the Pacific Highway. Newcastle Airport is only 25km from the city centre and has regular direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. You can also catch a train or bus direct from Sydney’s Central Station to Newcastle and the journey takes just under three hours.
Accommodation options suit all budgets, from backpacker hostels and self-catering apartments to luxury hotels and resorts. Newcastle will get its first five-star hotel, Kingsley, in late 2020. Families will love NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park where they can pitch a tent right next to Stockton Beach.